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Trump is sneaking environmental rollbacks past a nation in quarantine

In the weeks since the novel coronavirus began its exponential spread across America, schools have closed; churches, synagogues, and mosques have canceled services; and non-essential businesses have shuttered. The U.S. economy has ground to a halt. But the Trump administration and some state governments are still going full steam ahead on rolling back environmental protections.

So what’s been happening while we’ve been sheltering in place? A whole lot. “Consistent” isn’t generally a word used to describe this president, but Trump has been nothing if not consistent in his commitment to ensuring unfettered freedom for big polluters.

On Tuesday, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency put the nail in the coffin of President Obama’s 2012 rule aimed at curbing auto emissions. That rule would have required automakers to improve the fuel economy standards of their cars and light fleet trucks to by 5 percent on average a year. Trump’s new rule will only require them to raise those standards by 1.5 percent annually. For an idea of how easy Trump has made life for automakers, the industry has said it would boost standards 2.4 per year sans regulation.

Trump says the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule will make new cars cheaper and bolster auto manufacturers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. But loosening restrictions on automakers will lead to a billion more tons of carbon dioxide emitted and 80 billion more gallons of gasoline consumed cars over the course of their lifetimes. California is currently in a courtroom tussle with the EPA over a waiver that would allow the state to sidestep Trump’s rule and continue imposing stricter tailpipe emissions rules on vehicles driven in its jurisdiction.

Speaking of the EPA, the agency, helmed by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, is steadily moving forward with other rollbacks. Among them, a rule that could hobble future federal health regulations by limiting the studies regulators can use in the rulemaking process. Wheeler says the agency’s new rule to require disclosure of the raw data behind scientific studies used by the government to make regulations will increase transparency. Health experts argue it’ll exclude key studies that rely on confidential medical data.

Not content to move ahead with rollbacks that were already in the works, the EPA is also using the coronavirus as an excuse to let polluters loose on the playground. Last week, the agency announced it was going to let facilities like power plants and factories regulate themselves during the pandemic. The EPA will not issue fines for some air, water, and hazardous waste violations, and that loosening of restrictions will take retroactive effect going back to March 13. Companies should “act responsibly,” according to the EPA. Fat chance.

At the Department of the Interior, a similar saga is playing out. Last week, the department refused to extend the public comment period on its proposed reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a 1918 rule protecting more than 800 avian species. The agency also kept moving along plans this month to consider drilling projects on previously protected lands in Alaska and New Mexico, and is continuing oil and gas drilling lease auctions apace.

States are getting in on the deregulatory action, too. Over the past two weeks, Kentucky, South Dakota, and West Virginia quietly passed laws that would penalize pipeline protesters. Under the new state laws, fossil fuel infrastructure like the Dakota Access Pipeline are designated “critical infrastructure” or “key infrastructure assets.” Causing damage above a certain dollar amount or tampering with those assets could now lead to felony charges.

Meanwhile, the governors of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Illinois have already temporarily banned or officially discouraged reusable bags in grocery stores, and Maine’s plastic bag ban is being postponed until January 2021. Republican officials arguing against efforts to limit plastic pollution are taking talking points from the plastics industry. The president of the Plastic Industries Association recently said, “As the coronavirus spreads across the country, single-use plastics will only become more vital.” But the science behind the assertion that plastic bags spread the virus is thin, and a recent study showed the virus is still viable on plastic surfaces after 72 hours.

It’s clear that the coronavirus crisis has handed Trump and conservative state lawmakers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do away with environmental protections they find too burdensome. Too bad social distancing isn’t effective for pollution.

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Trump is sneaking environmental rollbacks past a nation in quarantine

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Climate gets a prime spot in the sixth Democratic debate

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Climate gets a prime spot in the sixth Democratic debate

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Are big cars really safer like Trump says?

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Are big cars really safer like Trump says?

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It’s California vs. Trump in ‘the fight of a lifetime’ over emissions standards

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It’s California vs. Trump in ‘the fight of a lifetime’ over emissions standards

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Berkeley triggered a chain of anti-gas laws

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Berkeley triggered a chain of anti-gas laws

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Frank Luntz, the GOP’s message master, calls for climate action

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Frank Luntz, the GOP’s message master, calls for climate action

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Guinness and Other Brewers Get Greener Packaging

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Green beer used to be a St. Patrick’s Day gimmick, but a sustainability movement seems to be taking off in the beer packaging industry.

Diageo, the manufacturer of St. Patrick’s Day favorite, Guinness, announced in April that they will eliminate plastic from their beer packaging. In the two months since the Guinness announcement, the brewer of Mexican beer Corona has introduced a new can that doesn’t require plastic ring carriers.

Plastic-Free Guinness

This isn’t the first time Guinness has tried something revolutionary. They were the first brewer to establish a scientific research lab, which led to the use of nitrogenation in beer. Now, beverage distributor Diageo has poured $21 million into a plastic-free packaging program. Diageo also owns the Harp and Smithwicks breweries. It will eliminate plastic packaging from those brands as well.

Plastic currently accounts for only about five percent of Guinness’ packaging. But by replacing plastic ring carriers and shrink wrap with 100 percent biodegradable or recyclable cardboard, the company will eliminate the equivalent of 40 million plastic bottles worth of waste annually.

Diageo’s announcement promised to roll out the new sustainable beer packs in Ireland by August 2019 and expand to international markets by summer 2020. But some American consumers can already take advantage of the company’s changing direction.

In May, Guinness’ Baltimore-brewed limited release canned multipacks switched to eco-friendly carriers. These carriers are made from compostable waste materials and are themselves fully compostable and biodegradable.

Plastic-Free Corona

If you’re not a Guinness fan, take heart.

Long considered a beer for the beach, Corona was the first beer to be sold in a clear glass bottle. While that packaging innovation was designed to highlight the brew’s clarity, more recent changes have the environment at heart. Through its partnership with Parley for the Oceans, Corona has adopted the A.I.R. strategy to avoid, intercept, and redesign to eliminate plastic pollution.

Corona’s intercept campaigns include attempting to clean 2 million square meters of beach in 23 countries this summer. A promotion in several countries (including the U.S.) will trade three empty PET (#1 plastic) bottles for a bottle of Corona.

Last year, Grupo Modelo, a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev and the maker of Corona, ran a pilot program to replace plastic ring carriers with biodegradable ones.

Now, they have taken a different approach to reduce plastic from packaging. Instead of redesigning the secondary packaging, Grupo Modelo chose to redesign the cans themselves. New Corona Fit Packs screw together into stacks of up to 10 cans, eliminating the need for any packaging to hold them together. This is similar to the Carlsberg Group’s new Snap Pack, except that Carlsberg’s cans will rely on an adhesive to join the cans.

See how the Fit Packs fit together in this promotional video:

In a move that could ultimately have more impact than just eliminating their own ring carriers, Grupo Modelo has promised to make its interlocking can designs open source. If they do, any canned beverage company will be able to reduce its impact on the environment without research costs.

Feature image courtesy of DIAGEO


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Guinness and Other Brewers Get Greener Packaging

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Thawing Alaskan permafrost threatens local communities

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Thawing Alaskan permafrost threatens local communities

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Science Is Golden – Karl Kruszelnicki


Science Is Golden

Karl Kruszelnicki

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $0.99

Publish Date: July 1, 2010

Publisher: HarperCollins


Gold, gold, gold for Australia's mega-selling scientist's 27th book… 'Nullius in verba', the Royal Society's motto, roughly translated, means 'take nobody's word for it'. Why not do the experiment for yourself and see the reality of nature. Don't trust authority – trust nature. Does cranberry juice cure urinary tract infections? Is the hookah really a safer way to smoke? Will the Large Hadron Collider destroy the Earth and the Universe? Is the purpose of the peacock's tail to attract females? And in the unlikely event of a plane crash, are some seats safer than others? the human hand has 27 bones; Uranus has 27 moons; 27 is a perfect cube, being 3 x 3 x 3; and in this, Dr Karl's 27th book, he takes us on another exploration of the dazzling world of science.

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Science Is Golden – Karl Kruszelnicki

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5 Ways You Might Be Contributing to Water Pollution

The health of our planet?s water is critical to life on Earth, yet it?s being polluted at an alarming rate. And humans are to blame. In fact, roughly 80 percent of ocean pollution comes from land, primarily from human activity. Here are five ways people contribute to water pollution in their everyday lives ? and what you can do to help combat the problem.

1. Plastic use

Maybe you?ve seen the viral video of the sea turtle who got a plastic straw stuck up its nose, and you decided to give up straws. That?s a great start. But the plastic problem facing the ocean goes a whole lot deeper. Millions of metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, influenced by population size and waste management standards, according to one study.

It all comes down to how much plastic people use. If you want to do your part to minimize plastic pollution, avoid disposable plastics wherever you can ? straws, drink lids, cutlery, grocery bags, water bottles, etc. Steer clear of beauty products with plastic microbeads. Consider the packaging when you make a purchase. For instance, you might be able to buy food from bulk bins using your own reusable containers, rather than purchasing a product packaged in plastic. And, of course, always responsibly recycle plastic whenever you can.

2. Pouring toxins down the sink or toilet

If your kid tries to flush one of their toys down the toilet, it might just mean a hefty plumber?s bill for you. But if an item that isn?t biodegradable makes it down a drain, that could affect the sewage treatment process. Those items often end up polluting water and beaches, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, so never let them go down the drain.

Furthermore, keep toxins far away from your drains, as well ? think old paint, chemical cleaners and unused medication. Instead, find a hazardous waste collection facility near you to dispose of them responsibly. The extra effort certainly is worth it to avoid those chemicals someday making an appearance in your drinking water.

3. Washing your own car

Being a model car owner doesn?t just make the roads safer. It also can keep our water cleaner. ?Good maintenance can reduce the leaking of oil, coolant, antifreeze, and other nasty liquids that are carried by rainwater down driveways or through parking lots and then seep into groundwater supplies,? according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

So what about a car wash? Although it costs more money, it actually might be more environmentally friendly to head to a professional car wash instead of doing it yourself. ?The pros are required to drain their wastewater into sewer systems, where the water is treated for all the bad stuff before being discharged,? the Natural Resources Defense Council says. ?Many even recycle that water.?

4. Not picking up after your dog

If you have a dog, hopefully you?re already a responsible pet owner picking up its waste. And you can pat yourself on the back twice because you?re also preventing pathogens from entering our water supply. ?Rain can carry pathogens in dog waste into streams where people swim, making them sick,? according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The nitrogen and phosphorus in dog waste also can contribute to toxic algae blooms and harm marine life.

And if you have a feline friend, never flush your cat?s poop down the toilet unless it has tested negative for toxoplasmosis. Cats excrete the parasite that causes the disease, which can lead to serious health complications in some people. If you don’t have a municipal compost program that accepts pet waste, the most practical option is to bag it ? preferably in an eco-friendly bag ? and throw it in the trash.

5. Applying lawn chemicals

As long as people insist on having the greenest lawn on the block and growing plants that don?t really belong in their environment, they?ll use fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Those chemicals might make your grass green, but they also have some serious consequences.

?When lawn chemicals are applied improperly, they can run off into streams, harming fish and other animals and contaminating our drinking water,? according to the Environmental Protection Agency. ?Overapplication of any lawn chemical can result in runoff that carries toxic levels of chemicals or excessive nutrients into lakes, streams and groundwater.?

Thankfully, there are many viable alternatives to toxic lawn chemicals that will keep your garden growing. Try organic lawn treatments or compost to feed your plants. Landscape with native species, which require less assistance from you. And test your soil for nutrient deficiencies before you apply anything unnecessarily.

Main image credit: Toa55/Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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5 Ways You Might Be Contributing to Water Pollution

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